Home-based childcare provider remains hopeful about universal preschool in Colorado

For the last 25 years, Amber Bilby has been in the childcare industry in one way or another. Her passion for children and her entrepreneurial spirit eventually led her to launch Daycare Home Arvada in 2009, a licensed and home-based childcare center in Arvada, Colo. She opened her doors with the vision to give children in her care the best possible opportunities to thrive in their environment. Although her licensed facility can care for up to nine children at a time and on her own, she’s had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of hundreds of children in the span of the last 14 years. 

Across Colorado, enrollment for Universal Preschool began this past January. Amber says that this program will be critical for families, but especially for childcare providers. She shares, “Getting paid to do what we are already doing is great, and this policy can certainly provide financial relief for working families. However, it’s important for this policy to provide flexibility in how parents access this new benefit, whether it is through a licensed community-based, school-based or home-based preschool setting.”

The new Universal Preschool policy provides 10 hours a week of free, high-quality preschool care for children in the state. Currently, Universal Preschool Colorado (UPK Colorado) is accepting enrolling applications from childcare providers and parents. Although more information about how the program will operate is forthcoming, Amber says she has her reservations but is optimistic about the program.

Like most small businesses, the pandemic wreaked havoc on her business operations and created staggering uncertainty. Many childcare providers were uniquely impacted by mandatory lockdowns and social distancing requirements. Fortunately for her, most of Amber’s clients are essential workers, so her facility continued to serve her community. She is always looking for ways to create a space of engagement for her children and their parents, while also maintaining safety. 

Amber says she’s eager to learn more about how to improve her small business operations. That’s why in addition to being a full-time childcare provider, she’s also the elected President of the Colorado Association of Family Child Care (CAFCC) and the head of public relations on the Jefferson County Child Care Association board. 

When asked what additional resources she wishes were available to childcare providers like her, she said, “I hope for a better, more unified communication system between providers. The issues facing Colorado childcare providers are the same issues facing childcare providers in other states. I wish providers could meet with fellow providers to facilitate information-sharing and to be able to talk about what’s working and not working in their state, because I think we have a lot to learn from each other.”

Amber remains hopeful and thankful that she’s able to stay in business after all of these years, despite the financial and emotional challenges she has faced. 

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